As Nigerians prepare for polls, a political analyst, Mr Alexander Orji, has called for passage of the Bill for an Act to Establish the National Electoral Offences Commission.
Orji said on Wednesday that establishment of the commission would adequately tackle electoral offenders and make Nigeria’s elections to be as strong and secure as possible.
He made the call in interviews with the press on Wednesday in Lagos.
“The Act should contain provisions for clamping down on electoral offenders, ensuring safety and security of voters and candidates, and establishing the necessary infrastructure and resources to ensure successful conduct of free, fair, and credible elections,” he said.
Orji said that without such an agency in place, there would be a risk of elections being vulnerable to irregularities and manipulation.
“Therefore, it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure that the bill is passed.
“It has been in progress for some time now but has not yet been passed,” he said.
According to him, the process of consideration and passage of the bill has been slow.
” Representatives of major political parties as well as civil society organisations have been engaged in discussions on how best to address the issue of electoral malpractice in the country.
“Additionally, the National Assembly has been undertaking public hearings across the country on the proposed legislation, further necessitating delays,” he said.
He quoted Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as discussing, on Feb. 19 at the Chatham House, the impact of election-related violence and voter intimidation on the electoral process.
According to him, Mahmood also stressed the need for strong enforcement mechanisms and rigorous prosecution of electoral offenders.
“He also clearly stated that INEC was handicapped to prosecute various offenders; thus, urging Nigerians to demand passage of the bill and adhering to the legislation.
“We must now consider that a lot of work is needed to achieve the progress we are craving for.”
He added that establishment of the commission would go a long way to make election process more transparent.
“The upcoming Nigerian elections will be incredibly important for the country and it is vital that the electoral process is conducted in an efficient and transparent manner.
” Without the commission’s oversight, there is the potential for local or national officials to take advantage of their positions for personal gains.
“Therefore, reliable and independent oversight is essential to ensure that candidates are not unfairly disadvantaged and that the integrity and legitimacy of the voting process are maintained.
“Measures such as the use of international election monitors and strict ballot box security can help to mitigate any potential problems in the absence of the commission,” he told NAN.
He appealed to election candidates to avoid vote buying.
“Vote buying is an illegal practice that undermines the integrity of democratic processes.
“In the absence of a well-functioning electoral offences commission, it is likely that vote buying will be much more difficult to detect, investigate and prosecute.
“Without a centralised agency responsible for monitoring and investigating voting irregularities, it is difficult for law enforcement authorities to effectively respond to reports of vote buying and other electoral offences,” he said.